Centre for Continuing Education

Jewish Culture Course: Vayikra (Leviticus) - A Call to Holiness

Jewish culture. Learn about Jewish culture with us.

COVID-19 update: arrangement of our courses

We are now delivering courses both online and in-person. Please check the delivery format for each class before you enrol.

Please note that course materials for all classes (excluding prescribed textbooks) are shared electronically within 48 hours of a course starting. Printing is not available.


In partnership with the Department of Hebrew, Biblical and Jewish Studies
Course materials developed by The Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning - a project of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. For specific enquiries regarding the program, please contact Hinda Young on 0432 567 917.

Join this course for accessible and informative discussions of Vayikra (Leviticus) – the third book of the Torah concerned with laws. This text is often perceived as challenging by modern readers – this course explores how studying Vayikra can inform our lives and is relevant to our current cultural context.

In our study of Vayikra, we will examine themes including the role of rituals, responding to tragedy, confronting birth and parenthood, seeking forgiveness, balancing the place of the individual, bringing sanctity into one’s daily life, and more. Through a textual study of selected passages, this course uncovers the depth and wisdom of Vayikra and reveals its enduring messages that touch our lives to this very day.

Join our Jewish Culture courses at CCE and acquire Jewish literacy in an open, trans-denominational, intellectually-stimulating learning environment.

Aims

The aim of this course is to engage you in a close reading of the biblical text of the book of Vayikra (Leviticus). You will discover its nuances, debate its meaning, and unearth its many messages.

Outcomes

By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • identify questions, ambiguities, and existential dilemmas that arise in the biblical text
  • describe different approaches to interpreting the biblical text through commentaries and art
  • explain how the layers of interpretation address central questions on the human condition
  • distinguish between the positions of the major Jewish thinkers
  • analyse the key moral and ethical messages of the texts studied, the historical realities at the time of their composition, and the contemporary implications of these perspectives on your own life.

Content

Lesson 1 – Challenges and opportunities in studying Vayikra

In this lesson, we will:

  • explore reasons why Vayikra was historically selected as the book to initiate children into learning the Torah
  • examine some of Vayikra’s overarching themes
  • address the challenges and opportunities of learning Vayikra.

Lesson 2 – Korbanot: Drawing near to God

This lesson demonstrates how teachings derived from the korbanot (sacrifices) address existential issues relevant to our existence, even in a culture where animal offerings are extinct and removed.

Lesson 3 – The joyous fire of acceptance and the tragic fire of death

In this lesson, we will examine the significance of the Eighth Day dedication of the tabernacle. This is juxtaposed with the deaths of Nadav and Avihu (Aaron’s sons) and the reactions to those deaths.

Lesson 4 – How can the sacred moment of birth Involve "Tumah"?

This lesson examines what is possibly the most confounding of examples of tumah (ritual impurity), the yoledet (a woman who has given birth), and uncovers the nuanced meaning of tumah and taharah (ritual purity). We will also explore what these terms meant in the past, and their relevance to the current cultural moment.

Lesson 5 – Lots, goats and Azazel? Yom Kippur biblical style

This lesson addresses the Azazel, the unique, obscure, and baffling Yom Kippur ceremony. This ceremony begins with the taking of two goats and the drawing of lots to determine their fate. We will discuss how commentaries have made sense of this biblical text and central Yom Kippur ritual.

Lesson 6 – Kedushah: holiness for all

In this lesson, we will examine an array of mitzvoth (commandments) relating to many areas of everyday life. These include: our relationship with God and one’s fellow human beings, the home, the workplace, and one’s actions, speech, and thought. We will attempt to understand what it means to bring holiness into everyday life.

Lesson 7 – Counting up: holiness in time

This lesson focuses on the period between Pesach and Shavuot, the Omer period. This time frame has a distinct agricultural significance and helps us to understand the relationship between holiness and time.

Lesson 8 – Crime and punishment: holiness threatened

We will discuss the threats to the holiness of a community and how it can be restored, using Vayikra as a reference.

Lesson 9 – Shabbat for the land, for God and … holiness for you!

In this lesson, we will use Vayikra to reveal how shemittah (sabbatical year) and yovel (jubilee year) speak to the spiritual and social challenges facing contemporary societies.

Lesson 10 – Blessings and curses: a call to follow God’s ways

In this lesson, we will examine whether there is an organising principle and underlying message in the way blessing and curses are presented in Vayikra. We will also discuss the relationship between God and Israel as related to the overarching theme of Vayikra.

Intended audience

Suitable for anyone wishing to explore Jewish biblical texts from a variety of perspectives.

Delivery style

This ten-lesson course centres around text study and discussion between participants and the facilitator.

Materials

A course booklet is available in two formats:

  1. Complimentary online booklet (PDF) accessible via an online portal.
  2. Printed booklet (additional fee of $24) available for purchase here. Your booklet will be available to collect at the first or second class, depending on the date of purchase.

Features

  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Course materials – yours to keep
  • CCE Statement of Completion

Jewish Culture Course: Vayikra (Leviticus) - A Call to Holiness

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